3: Community

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From the ground, Nick saw that they had been spotted now. Those things were running in their direction at superhuman speeds. He looked over at Chuck and Henry. They were propping Ben up onto Chuck’s shoulders. Henry pointed his gun at the runners to cover them. Nick stood up and retreated around the corner.

BANG! BANG!

Two gunshots rang out, followed by some screaming that Nick couldn’t tell if they were words or sounds of pain. Not wanting to stay and find out, he kept running away from the screams and sounds of gunfire until he could no longer hear them.

He paused to catch his breath and reorient himself. The community was just a few streets away now. If he made it back there, he would be safe. There would be questions as to why he was coming back alone and empty-handed, but everyone knew the threat that was out there beyond the community’s walls. Even if they were disappointed, they would understand.

The entrance was a ten-feet high metal door with barbed wire along the top. When Nick had first arrived, it was the only place that had barbed wire at the top, but now, the wire ran for nearly the entire length of the walls. It had taken much longer than they had originally planned, but they felt safer knowing there was an extra layer of protection between them and those monsters.

Nick remembered what Ben had said earlier in the shop. Soon they would all have to move on to somewhere new, and all of the work they had put into securing this place will have to be done all over again at a new location. All of those people who sacrificed their lives to make the community a safer place will have died for nothing.

He banged on the door.

Knock-knock. Knock. Knock-knock.

The series of two-one-two was the secret password given to the scavengers in order to be let back inside. It was designed to know if there were new people arriving, rather than identifying oneself as human and not as one of those monsters. They were too stupid to do anything but bang furiously against the walls, anyway.

A small slit slid open. Two eyes peered out at Nick and looked around to make sure the coast was clear. It slid back closed. The sound of a lock being disengaged and a heavy chain being dragged could be heard before the door opened just enough for Nick to squeeze through. The door was closed immediately after. The chain was pulled tight and locked in place, securing the entrance once again.

The gatekeeper was a surly-looking man with long, braided hair and a full, bushy beard. He would have fit in perfectly among the Vikings in the old days. His name was Jeremy, but most people called him Heimdall after the gatekeeper from Norse mythology. Whether or not he approved of this nickname, he would never tell.

“Where’s Ben?” he asked.

Nick shook his head in response.

“Wait here,” said Heimdall and opened the gate providing a secondary barrier between the entrance and the community. He disappeared into the house nearest to the gate and walked out thirty seconds later followed by two other men. The one wearing a studded-leather jacket said something to the other man, who in turn nodded and jogged off in the opposite direction. He and Heimdall stopped on the community side of the gate. The man crossed his arms and stared curiously at Nick.

“We were attacked,” said Nick. “Ben didn’t make it.”

The man did not respond.

“I barely managed to get away.”

He remained silent.

“Richard,” said Nick. “Let me in.”

Richard shifted his weight and closed his eyes. He exhaled through his nose and said, “What did I ask you to do?”

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